The billionaire founder of Microsoft who devotes himself to philanthropic activities is at the heart of a dozen conspiracy theories. Very involved in public health and promoter of vaccination, he symbolized the figure of the “war profiteer” with the coronavirus crisis.

Vaccine, fleas ... How Bill Gates became the bogeyman of the conspirators

Bill Gates “created the Covid-19”, wants to “depopulate the Earth”, “implant microchips in the population”: false claims like these, shared millions of times, literally explode on the Internet. 

The famous American billionaire has become the favorite target of conspiracies , whose publications benefit from increased visibility in favor of the pandemic, and are swarming on the Internet in various variants and versions.

The Microsoft co-founder who has become a philanthropist is a “sort of voodoo doll in which plotters of all stripes plant” – like needles – “their different theories”, explains Rory Smith, research director at First Draft, a media network that conducts projects against disinformation.

A “scarecrow”, abounds Whitney Philips, of the American University of Syracuse, about the American billionaire, engaged for 20 years via the Gates Foundation  in vaccination campaigns and the fight against epidemics .

“Eliminate 15% of the world’s population”

A video in English accusing him, among other things, of wanting to “eliminate 15% of the population” via vaccines and to transplant microchips to people, alone, has garnered nearly two million fewer views on YouTube two months.

These allegations “exploded” between January and April, notes Rory Smith, to the point that, according to the New York Times , the disinformation in English aimed at Bill Gates is now the most viral of all the information relating to Covid-19, which made more than 300,000 dead worldwide. Present worldwide and in many languages, they can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, or on the 4chan, Reddit forums …

AFP has already dismantled more than a dozen viral publications in English, French, Spanish, Polish or Czech. With diverted, decontextualized quotes and videos, photomontages, misleading shortcuts, these publications accuse him of wanting to give a poisoned vaccine to Africans, of having paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children, of possessing WHO, of use our brain to create cryptocurrencies or even … to be satanist.

If many were already circulating before the pandemic of the new coronavirus, the allegations targeting Bill Gates have one thing in common: accusing him of wanting to take advantage of the pandemic, such as the figure of the “profiteer of war”: enslaving the world or enriching himself by selling vaccines. 

The perfect scapegoat

“These theories (…) can reduce people’s confidence in health organizations and lower vaccination rates, which is worrisome,” says Rory Smith.

“Any conspiracy theory must unmask its ultimate orchestrator,” said researcher Kinga Polyńczuk-Alenius, on a blog at the University of Helsinki. “Because he criticized the Trump administration, that he is a technology tycoon turned philanthropist, a fervent promoter and financier of vaccination, the co-founder of Microsoft is the perfect scapegoat for a crisis, which is at the intersection of technology and medical science, “she says.

More precisely, “he has not become the star of conspiracies, he has already been for a long time”, specifies Sylvain Delouvée, researcher in social psychology at the University of Rennes. Bill Gates was already accused of being behind the epidemic of Zika or of being a reptilian creature, recalls this specialist in conspiracy.PauseMuteCurrent Time 1:31/Duration 7:52Loaded: 33.58% ShareFullscreen 

“It embodies public health”

But thanks to the unprecedented current health crisis, Bill Gates explodes the counters. “This is not surprising, given the fact that he embodies public health in many ways with the projects he has launched around the world,” said Rory Smith.

Engaged in numerous humanitarian projects – notably in Africa, where Bill Gates’ information is particularly numerous -, provider of private business funds and second WHO financier, the Foundation serves as a breeding ground for many rumors targeting the billionaire. And it has earned him for a long time the renewed hostility of anti-vaccine activists, already very active on social networks and inflated to the full during the epidemic.

Among the very popular theories: he created the virus. The proof” ? He holds the “patent” and had “predicted the epidemic” in a conference in 2015. In reality? A research institute, which had received funding from the Gates Foundation, had filed a patent for an animal coronavirus. And like part of the scientific community, Bill Gates had already expressed himself in recent years to be alarmed by the probability of an upcoming pandemic.

Relayed by stars like Juliette Binoche

These false claims are also shared by famous figures, like the French actress Juliette Binoche , and transcend political cleavages. Bill Gates, a critic of Donald Trump, has particularly drawn the ire of ultra-conservative muse Laura Ingraham, who accused him of wanting to “track” people with vaccines.

Proof of the popularity of these theories, we find them on the other side of the political chessboard with Robert Kennedy Jr, nephew of the former Democratic president, anti-Trump and anti-vaccines. Schematically, his wealth and the fact that he is a figure of the technological giants makes him someone “necessarily suspect” on the far left, while his side international figure influential makes him an incarnation of “cosmopolitanism” hated by the ‘far right, explains Sylvain Delouvée.

However, dismantling false claims does not “mean explaining that everyone is nice,” he said, recalling that there may be substantiated and legitimate questions about the use of personal data by groups. technological or governments for example. In addition, the Foundation has been criticized for a lack of transparency in its management or its choice of funding, in the prestigious scientific journal The Lancet for example.

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